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Hope for British firms over £1bn Royal Navy contract

By Peter Madeley | Sandwell | Politics | Published:

A £1 billion naval contract could be handed to UK shipyards after ministers hinted at a shift towards a 'buy British' policy.

Warley MP John Spellar has championed British shipbuilding

The Ministry of Defence had been heavily criticised for its controversial decision to put a contract for three Royal Navy support ships out to international tender.

Now hopes have been raised that the contract will be reserved for UK shipyards, after Defence Secretary Ben Wallace branded the previous tendering process "delinquent".

The competition was halted by the MoD last November over concerns that the contract to build up to three 40,000-tonne Fleet Solid Support ships could not be met.

John Spellar, the Labour MP for Warley, has called for the process to be limited to UK-based companies in a bid to support the British shipbuilding industry.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Spellar, who last year launched a Build them in Britain campaign, told MPs that British firms desperately need orders in order to "keep going".

He added: "Once again, I ask, can we start behaving like every other country? With the fleet solid support vessels, will the Minister now come to the dispatch box, tell us when he's going to actually start the programme again and that these ships are going to be built in British yards?"

In response Mr Wallace said the Government had ceased all bidding on the contract "because it was delinquent the first-time round".

"I have re-examined many of the terms and conditions of that contract, and I would therefore say he should watch this space."

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Mr Spellar told the E&S: ""It is important, not only for the shipyards but also for the people who supply them, such as British Steel and the many engineering companies in the West Midlands.

"We will be pressing the Government on what hopefully represents a change in direction where the Ministry of Defence and the whole of Whitehall start putting British industry first."

The competition to build the ships was initially thrown open to international tender after the MoD decided not to classify them as warships, meaning they could be built abroad.

It was put on hold after the MoD published Sir John Parker’s review of the National Shipbuilding Strategy, where he raised concerns that the ships may be built abroad.

Peter Madeley

By Peter Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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